What is Diphtheria?
Isn’t diphtheria one of those bygone diseases of another era?
In this country, it should be. But every now and again, a case crops up. Invariably it happens in a family who fail to have their children immunized. Adequate protection is available, and results are virtually 100 per cent successful. What happens?
A throat infection caused by a germ called Corynebacterium diphtheriae occurs by way of infected moisture particles. These take anywhere from one to seven days to produce symptoms. It commences with a mild sore throat and moderate fever. A dirty grey-green-colored discharge gradually covers the tonsils and throat.
The germs produce a powerful poison that rapidly circulates throughout the body, and this is responsible for a rapid pulse, severe prostration and an extremely ill. child. As the fever soars, a croupy cough develops and the throat becomes hoarse. Gradually breathing difficulty occurs and the complexion becomes bluish as insufficient oxygen circulates. The patient rapidly becomes dangerously ill, and there is a high mortality rate.
An unimmunized child who develops any of the early symptoms needs urgent medical treatment from the doctor. Hospital care is essential, for serious complications arc highly probable, especially affecting the heart.
Intensive therapy is necessary, and large doses of antitoxin are given in an attempt to neutralize the poisons produced by the diphtheria germs. It may take many weeks of careful nursing before the patient recovers.
A simple series of injections in babyhood may remove all this risk. As some recent cases have occurred during the teen years, some doctors suggest a booster injection of diphtheria (along with a tetanus toxic booster) during these years.